My favorite things: hostess gifts

I'm back! If you're wondering where I've been, I successfully underwent ACL reconstruction surgery last week. On the road to a LONG recovery. Take care of your knees, especially if you're heading to the slopes for the holidays.

Last year during the holidays I shared some of my favorite things. Here are my picks for items any host or hostess would be delighted to receive:

Let's start with the most obvious -- a bottle of wine.

I'm not a chardonnay fan. I simply don't like the flavor of oak. When I ordered a glass of Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay this summer at George's in Alys I was hooked. This wine is fermented and aged in cement tanks, which sets it apart from oak barreled varieties. Tasty and comes in a cool ceramic bottle too. A bit of a splurge at $25 a bottle.


Block Nine Pinot Noir continues to be my favorite red. I just served it at Thanksgiving. At under $15 a bottle, you can't go wrong.


And speaking of red wine. Back by popular demand -- Tech Stain Remover. An unexpected, yet practical gift. Be creative. Package it with a bottle of red wine. Trust me, every hostess needs a bottle in her arsenal. Available on and most local hardware stores like Intown Ace.

Speaking of stains, do you all know about The Laundress? I think we all agree that doing laundry is a tedious and loathsome task. The Laundress products can add a bit of style to your otherwise dull laundry room. I like the Apres hand cream and soap duo. On sale now for $34. Okay, a bit of a luxury, but every laundress deserves something special. Why spend money on the living room, when we spend most of our time in the kitchen and laundry room? If you have a question about a mysterious stain or truly terrible laundry quandary, just ask the laundress.

Chic And Clean
{For a small fortune, you too can stock your laundry room with The Laundress products}

There's always a lot of food around for the holidays. It's nice to receive baked goodies, but why not gift something that can be enjoyed after the holiday season? As you know I'm quite smitten with Jeni's ice cream. Her salty caramel sauce is to die for! A steal at $22 for a two pack.

Scented candles can be a tricky purchase. A candle scent -- like perfume -- is a personal preference. I continue to stand by my fave Seda France "Japanese Quince." For something more subtle, you can't go wrong with "Cutting Garden."

Note to the hostess: You do know not to burn scented candles near food, right? They are meant to be used near an entrance to your home or in the powder room. Burn non-scented candles on any surface that has food on or around it.

Pagoda Candle by Seda France

I love these signet mugs from Anthropologie. Perfect for tea and coffee drinkers alike. Mug + small treat = $10!


I stumbled upon the Canadian company Chive last summer. Chive has an extensive collection of vases and pots -- not to mention gnomes -- for all of your floral needs. Styles are definitely more on the modern side. My fave is the simple frog cube. At less than $10, it comes in a rainbow of colors. Cut a flower, herb or piece of greenery from your yard -- holly would be nice this season -- pop it in a cube and present it to your hostess. Go ahead and order a case. You will have to pay a small shipping fee, but I received a free gift with my order. I do love a little surprise. White is an obvious choice for its versatility, but silver would be nice for the holidays.

 {I always have one in my powder room.}

Enough for now. What will you be giving as hostess gifts this season?



A Wise Old Owl
A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?
-- The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes

Curious about the wise old owl, I did some research. In Greek mythology the Little Owl was a messenger of Athene -- the the goddess of wisdom. This may explain why owls symbolize wisdom today. The Greeks used owls as decoration for their army as they believed it offered them protection. If a Little Owl flew over the army during battle, it was an omen of victory. During World War II, the US Army used the rhyme on a poster tweaking the ending line with "Silence means security."

Has anyone else noticed that owls are trending big time this holiday season? I'm seeing them everywhere. And they are really cute. Let's take a look.


{flannel wreath}

{fluffy ornaments, accessories and more mugs than you can shake a stick at}

Star Provisions is filled to the rafters with holiday decor. Owls abound, including this owl adorned tree…

{The silver owls are my faves.}

{Love this vignette. The white porcelain guy is a piggy bank -- cute idea for a child's bedroom.}

Jonathan Adler added an unglazed porcelain owl ornament to its "swanky swag" menagerie...

Here's the wise guy hanging on a gilded tree...

Last, but certainly not least, what a fun way to plate your eggs Christmas morning and store your contacts before bed. Ace is the place.

It was pretty obvious what to order with my delicious dinner at Sobban last weekend.

{Hitachino Nest beer from Japan}

Restaurant review coming soon.

My holiday tablescape...

Thanksgiving was an exciting day here. We celebrated Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and my sister's birthday.

Remember my blue and orange mood board? Here's how it came to life:

Hope you all had a good one, and for those of you who are still enjoying the festival of lights...

Thanksgivingukkah food and decor...

For the first time since 1899, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah will be celebrated on the same day. And it won't happen again for 70,000 years. In light of this very special occasion, I've decided to do a mash-up for my menu, tablescape and decor.

Orange and blue happen to be one of my favorite color combinations. I was flipping through some shelter mags this week and couldn't help but notice that the covers of House Beautiful and Cottage Style both feature rooms in blues and oranges. Purely coincidental I suppose. But a nice jumping off point for my holiday inspiration.

My mood board:

{evidence of my lovingly used Paper Source rubber stamp collection}


Twists on my regular menu:
Recipes for these sides can be found on one of my favorite blogs The Shiksa in the Kitchen. I am, after all, a shiksa and slowly learning about Jewish cooking. I like Tori's blog for a lot of reasons. She's cute, her step-by-step recipes are easy to follow -- she does tutorials on stuff like how to peel, seed and prep butternut squash -- and she doesn't use a lot of mixing bowls, because she doesn't like to do dishes. Her History Kitchen tells the stories behind our favorite foods. Plus, she has an adorable yellow lab named "Marley." A girl after my own heart.

I'll be back soon to show you how my vision comes to life. In the meantime, check out my Thanksgivingukkah Pinterst board for more ideas.

Fall into fashion: 5 trends this season...

Finally getting cold and blustery here in Atlanta. Guess it's time to get your fall wardrobe in order. These sources will help give you a jump start.

1) I don't do heels, so I was happy to see Matchstick Magazine's (my fave. e-mag) 10 best flats for the season. Calf hair in dots and leopard prints abound. Lands' End has a cute pair of calf hair flats at a moderate price point.

2) Fall Crush: the bootie. What do you think -- love or loathe them? Seeing them everywhere, including my go to: Boden. Not something I could get away with. Rachel from Pink Peonies is currently craving these six styles. She can pull off just about anything. I, on the other hand, can't. But I could see myself in these. Oh and here's Rachel's fall boot guide.
{Riis Bootie by Billy Reid $495}

3) Riding boots are always in vogue. LDV's top 10 ten. Paloma has excellent taste. I love that she includes a pic of my girl crush Gwyneth. I'm craving the Charlotte Olympia boots, but at $1,395 I'll have to settle for the Mercer boot by Jack Rogers in black -- a bargain at $298.

4) If you're jonesing for some plaid this season like City Sage's Ann Sage, check out her fall style essential -- buffalo plaidInStyle featured tartan plaid as a 2013 fall fashion trend. Rock it in a provocative way. So as not to seem too prim, InStyle suggests giving plaid some "bite" with crazy hair and dark lipstick and eyeliner.


{via InStyle}
Or nice...
{Rach Pink Peonies}

Which way will you be wearing plaid this season?

5) Ann Sage also includes the wide-brimmed hat as a fall style essential. Made By Girl Jen is into hats too. Annie Hall anyone?

5) Quilted minis are in, as well as bags, foot ware and accessories. Adri of Adri's World loves this trend. I'm digging it too. So Chanel.

It goes without saying that scarves are a must have accessory this season, especially if you're feeling bad about your neck. Ann Taylor offers a chic collection. And, speaking of scarves, it  wouldn't hurt to take a scarf wearing refresher course:

Photo image: 1

Jenis splendid ice creams...

Good news. Jeni's recently opened on the West side. Yay! Elizabeth F. and I had to go check it out immediately. We were not disappointed.

So what's all the hype about? Jeni's happens to be the best ice cream I have ever had hands down. The secret to her artisan American ice creams: flavor, texture and creamy consistency. With ingredients like whole milk, heavy cream, cream cheese and the best quality chocolate, extracts and fresh seasonal farmer's market offerings -- how can you go wrong? Jeni's sells signature -- like sea salt caramel -- as well as seasonal flavors. Right now the late harvest collection includes: sweet potato with torched marshmallows, Cinderella pumpkin, sweet corn & black raspberries and whiskey & pecans. Yum!

Jeni's storefront is a adorable. Let's take a quick peek.

 {welcome to Jeni's}

{come on in}

{colorful streamers, ice cream, gravel toppings, marble top tables -- so cute}

{my order -- sea salt caramel and brown butter almond brittle ice creams with salty graham gravel}

I've had my eye on some pumpkin/ginger ice cream sandwiches I saw on the Canadian blog Chocolate Shavings for my Thanksgiving dinner spread. I plan to use this big soft ginger cookie recipe filled with Jeni's Cinderella pumpkin ice cream. Of course, I'll have to practice and do a lot of taste testing before I get the sandwiches just right for my guests. I found some cute chevron paper bags for the ice cream sandwiches and a bunch of other baking and party accoutrement at the Pink Lemonade party shop on etsy. I'm sorry, but I can't resist showing you my fave. item in that shop -- Mr. Macho Man cake topper. Here he is!

Mr. Macho Man is available in different skin tones, hair colors and speedos.

If you're feeling really ambitious this holiday season, you can make your own mouth-watering Jeni's ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet. More than 100 "addictively good" recipes can be found in Jeni's New York Times best seller Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. She offers pairings for each recipe. Nice touch. I have her book and an ice cream maker on my holiday wish list.

In other foodie news…

Look what I saw at my pilates studio Urban Body yesterday. Please tell me you didn't know that Diet Coke has created a tall, skinny Taylor Swift Collector's Edition. It's available for a limited time only. You Taylor fans better go get it while supplies last.

{"If you're lucky enough to be different, don't ever change." Yes, that quote is actually on each can along with her signature.}

Last, but certainly not least, the winner of my Metrofresh give-away…drum roll please…is Robin P. Congrats Robin. Can't wait to try your white bean stew recipe.

Happy Monday!

Anniversary give-away!

{Metrofresh turkey chili - yum!}

Bluemopheads celebrated its one-year anniversary October 30. Yay!

I started this blog while I was temporarily insane. [Note: Read this post again -- guaranteed to make you laugh.] The mophead boys had been home for what seemed like months with various illnesses, including pneumonia. Plus, my friend Susannah had started her successful blog Out Went the Light and she encouraged me to go for it. I've really enjoyed writing it and hope to make some improvements very soon.

To celebrate this milestone, I'm offering you dear readers a giveaway from one of my fave. places. It's starting to get brisk and blustery in Atlanta. I'm in a soup kinda mood. When I'm hungry for soup there's only one place to go -- Metrofresh. I've been a metrofreshusual since my kids were in preschool.

For your chance to win a $20 Metrofresh gift card simply leave a comment here or on my facebook page providing me with one of your simple, go-to soup recipes. The winner will be announced next Monday, November 11. Oh, and you must be a subscriber to win.

I'll start. This quick turkey and rice soup recipe from Martha Stewart is yummy. Great way to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. And, I love using root veggies this time of year.

Good luck and bon appetite!

Can you get mastitis when you're not nursing?

{via Pinterest}

Yes, you can.

Thought this post might be TMI, but in the spirit of breast cancer awareness month, I'm going to share my story. Consider this a public service announcement.

A few weeks ago, I had a low grade fever, chills and felt pretty crummy. Too busy to notice a gynormous breast cyst forming -- until it became extremely painful -- I had a vague recollection of having something similar when I was nursing over a decade ago. Could it be mastitis? Immediately I began obsessively searching for an answer online. It is in fact very rare for women to get mastitis when they are not nursing with a few exceptions, including nipple piecing. Not an issue for me.

I made an appointment to see my ob/gyn a few days later. When I called, I told the nurse what I suspected. My doctor took a look and grabbed my file. After studying my mammogram report, he asked the nurse and the office manager to dial up the surgeon's office across the street at the Piedmont Hospital to set up an appointment right away. Just to be on the safe side.

They were able to see me immediately, so I headed on over to the hospital. Of course I was in a total panic. OMG, I might have breast cancer.

This cute girl in a lab coat walks in to examine me. You know you're getting old when doctors look like they're 25. In any event, one young doctor followed by another cruised around with the ultrasound wand. The cyst was full of fluid. Phew. A course of antibiotics was prescribed. Convo with second doctor:

Me: How could I possibly have mastitis?
MD: You mentioned you do pilates. Do you work out a lot?
Me: Yes.
MD: Do you wear a supportive sports bra?
Me: Yes.
MD: Do you usually change out of it after your workout.
Me: Rarely.
MD: We often see cases of mastitis among athletic women -- I think she was referring to marathon runners and triathletes, but I'll include myself in that category anyway -- who wear supportive sports bras. The friction can irritate the nipple, bacteria can enter and find a nice cozy breeding ground for infection.
Me: I guess I should change out of my athletic ware immediately after working out.
MD: That would be a good idea. I'd like to see you in a week.

Thankfully, I've fully recovered.

While we're on the subject of sports and health, here's another question. Is it possible to have an ACL tear after falling during a tennis match without major pain or swelling? Without hearing a "pop?" Just feeling like your knee is unstable and could possibly buckle from underneath you? Can it be possible even after you see an orthopedist who takes an X-ray, does a physical exam and tells you everything looks good and you can resume your normal activities, including tennis?

Yes, it is. I will have knee surgery before the end of the year.

Bottom line: When your body is sending your brain signals like "this feels vaguely familiar" or "this just doesn't feel right." Listen to it. It's also best to take advice from someone you trust like your pilates instructor who tells you there's no way/no how to play tennis on an unstable knee. Having had surgery on both knees, she knows what she's talking about.

I'm considering burning all of my sports bras and becoming a coach potato. I will, however, continue to get my annual mammogram. You should too. Not sure if you need one? Check out the American Cancer Society's guidelines for early detection for breast cancer. I used to work there.

Hope this PSA is helpful.

West side story act one...

Earlier this month my friend Elizabeth F. and I headed over to the Westside Provisions District to check out a few new and old hot spots. The west side has become one of Atlanta's finest foodie and style destinations. New shops and restaurants are cropping up faster than I can keep up with.

First stop J. Crew. Bet you didn't know there's one over there. I'm a chronic returner. And I have a bad habit of letting rejects sit around my house for too long. J. Crew will accept way overdue returns for full credit. During our visit, the lovely sales staff gladly took a return of a purchase I made in May. No questions asked. Yet another opportunity for me to avoid Buckhead. Yay. Women's wear only.

Next stop -- the Preserving Place -- Atlanta's one-stop shop for DIY home food preservation. We were lucky to visit during opening week.

{Isn't she cute}

Owner Martha McMillan was the perfect Southern hostess. We sampled a variety of signature jams, condiments and pickles as we sipped lemon verbena (from Martha's garden, of course) infused water.  According to Martha, lemon verbena was Scarlett O'Hara's favorite herb. Interesting bit of trivia.

{Pretty blue glasses}

Southern chef Virginia Willis helped develop the recipes for the house-made signature and seasonal products prepared in the store's commercial kitchen. All made with ingredients from local farms. No sugar added. Our faves: sweet onion confit, hot peach and ginger jam and the ATL-1 steak sauce.

You can also buy supplies for making your own concoctions. Great place to pick up a hostess gift too.

 I was quite smitten with the space designed by Square Feet Studio. Loved the seating area...

Lighting fixtures...

Commercial kitchen...

And, the amazing front door...

Okay, I loved it all. Let's move on.

If you haven't been to Billy Reid, you're in for a real treat. Handsomely designed and styled to the nines. Smart looking -- picture Ralph Lauren classic, but more hip -- clothing, footwear and accessories for ladies and gents. Billy Reid partnered with Coach this season on a limited edition line of pebbled leather women's and men's accessories -- wallets, "satchels" and other accoutrement like this $600 Kentucky cocktail set.

Most, if not all, footwear is handmade in Italy. Clever display of shoes, shirts and ties on cake stands and serving trays. Don't you agree?

I was quite taken by the shop's design. Enough pics, though. You'll have to go see it for yourself.

Ravenous, we headed to the West Egg Cafe for lunch. Had never been, so I was psyched to check it out. West Egg is owned and operated by our friends Jennifer and Ben Johnson who also own The General Muir. See my review in an earlier post. Square Feet Studio designed both fabulous restaurant spaces.


So hungry, I forgot to take pics of our food. EF had the sweetcorn pancakes. You can never go wrong with flavored butter and sugar bacon.

Our last stop -- from the owners of Holeman & Finch -- H&F Bread Co. Off the beaten track on Ellsworth Industrial Blvd., the bakery is stocked with fresh breads, pastries and other yummy stuff. Most notably the bacon caramel popcorn. Trust me. Get some. EF says it is a well-received hostess gift. The Bloody Mary mix is next on my list to try.

Sadly, it was time to head back to Decatur before school let out.

So much more to see and taste. Stay tuned for act two.
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